A person holding a camera up close

The Best Cameras for Safaris

Safaris can be magical experiences that draw you into deep into the wilderness and away from all the worries of daily life. If you’re lucky enough to have the chance to go on one of these once-in-a-lifetime adventures, you’ll undoubtedly want to capture the best moments in photos you can revisit after your trip – they’re the best souvenirs to document the amazing sights and remind you of the memories you made along the way. However, taking photos on safari can be trickier than you think. If you’re looking to take some great wildlife snaps, a safari trip might be the perfect chance to step up your photography game and splurge for a new camera. While smartphone camera technology has been making incredible strides, the limited digital zoom and screen glare isn’t going to cut it on safari.


Travel on: A safari


What to look for in a camera

1. Price point

Though your safari trip was undoubtedly a big expense in itself, it’ll definitely be worth shelling out a bit more for a good camera if great wildlife shots are what you’re after. There are cameras at every price point that will already be a huge step up from your smartphone camera. With tons of competitive features out there that inflate the price tag, you should know that you don’t need the most expensive model to take the best pictures, especially if you’re not a professional photographer. Take into account the types of pictures you’ll be taking – close-up shots of wildlife in action, or sweeping shots of the safari landscape – to determine the features you’ll want to put your money on.

2. Durability

Conditions on safari can be tough on a camera – dust, wind, rain, and bumps are some things you might need to worry about, not to mention heat and humidity. You’ll want a weatherproof camera that will withstand all of these without a problem, so you that you won’t have to worry about its function while you’re on the road.

3. Frames Per Second

On safari, you’re likely going to be taking photos of dynamic subjects who will be on the move. You’ll want a camera with a fast FPS that will be able to take quick bursts of frames to make sure that you get your shot.

antelope during the great migration in masai mara national reserve, Kenya
FPS is important when photographing movement | © Harshil Gudka/Unsplash

4. Sensor

The sensor on a camera is the part that captures the light, and has a huge influence on image quality, which makes it an integral feature to consider for a good camera. Some of the best wildlife moments on safari will be captured during dusk or dawn hours, when the animals will be at their most active. You’ll want a camera that’s able to render your image and its colours well in those conditions. Go for a camera with a crop sensor that will help you get closer to your subject with less distortion.

A man with a canon camera held up to his face
A lightweight camera is great for travel | © Mike Baker/Unsplash

5. Weight

You’ll be on the move constantly on safari, so the camera you choose has to travel well. You should be able to comfortably grip and maneuver it for long periods at a time. With baggage restrictions and weight limits on some safaris, this is something you should definitely consider – a top-of-the-line camera with all the best features will be of no use if you’re unable to comfortably bring it along with you.

The best types of cameras for safari

Point and Shoot

Point and shoot cameras are lightweight, easy to use, and your first step up from a smartphone camera – perfect for beginners who don’t want to worry about too many fancy features, but are looking to elevate their photos. Their larger sensors and superior optical zooms will have your smartphone beat, and will yield better-quality pictures that will look great when printed out, even at bigger sizes. They’re also in the lower price range, meaning you can take beautiful pictures without blowing your budget. However, without the ability to change lenses, they’re not the most versatile option.

The Panasonic Lumix TZ-90 has great image stabilization, and its 30x optical zoom lens can help you get wide-angle shots of sweeping landscapes or zoom in to help you get those great pictures of those faraway wildlife subjects. Its tilt-angle touchscreen is easy to use and makes setting the focus and using other features simple, while also being great for selfies. Compact and user-friendly, it’s a great camera for travel.

A man in a safari hat looking at photos on a camera in South Africa
Photography is the perfect way to preserve your safari adventure! | © Austin Distel/Unsplash

DSLRs

DSLRs, or Digital Single-Lens Reflex cameras, are your most versatile option for more professional results. With a DSLR, you’re able to change lenses to get a greater range of shots, which means the options are truly endless. Even intro DSLRs can offer better photos than most point-and-shoot cameras, at a comparable price. Their only downside is that with more options come more bulk – extra accessories and heavy lenses might take up space and weigh you down. But if you’re ready to level up your photography skills and start taking travel photos more regularly, DSLRs are the tried-and-true way to go.

The Canon Rebel series is a great introduction to the DSLRs. For wildlife pictures, a 300mm zoom or an all-in-one lens will give you some flexibility with your shot. Recent models also come equipped with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity.  The Canon EOS 80D’s quick autofocus and weatherproof body make it perfect to bring along on safari. With a good hand grip, it has Wi-Fi capabilities and is compatible with most lenses. The Fujifilm X-T3 is a more advanced DSLR that’s at a higher price range, but great for action shots due to its fast and precise autofocus, quick FPS, and a superior sensor. It’s fully weather-sealed with Wi-Fi capabilities and incredibly lightweight thanks to its magnesium-alloy body, and its retro-chic design will fit right in on safari.

Two antelope in a bush camp in south africa
Antelope in Pongola, South Africa | © Sweet Ice Cream Photography/Unsplash

Before you head out, practice with your camera to make sure you’re used to its features and its function. When you’re packing, think about what you want to take with you in your camera bag – different lenses, or accessories like tripods, UV filters, or extra battery packs and memory cards could be helpful when you’re on the road, but be mindful of strict baggage requirements. Drones are prohibited on most reserves, but if your heart is set on getting some aerial shots, you can get in touch with your tour provider to see what their provisions are. As always, be respectful of the environment and of the local culture. Once you have your bags packed and your camera picked out, you’re all set to take incredible photos and make unforgettable memories on your exciting safari adventure!

Melanie is a Toronto-based writer and editor who loves experiencing new things in new places. In between adventures, you can find her with her nose in a book, re-watching episodes of Friends, or on the lookout for her next favourite brunch spot.

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